Becoming an Expatriate. ALI: The Keys to the Kingdom.

By Zachary York

Zachary YorkMy transition into a professional life from that of academia is riddled with twists and turns, as it is for most people that I know. Throughout my undergrad at the University of Arizona, I studied creative writing and the Italian language. It was there that I got my first taste of being abroad; study abroad in Italy was an eye-opening experience.

After I completed my degree, I sought direction and took to the open road. I backpacked around Europe for two months with my best friend. It was somewhere on our train journey through Italy and France that I decided to return to school and pursue a master’s in Special Education.

I found a program at SDSU and made quick work of taking the prerequisite courses. During said courses, I was afforded the opportunity to take a short internship at the Western Academy of Beijing, where I gained firsthand experience in international classrooms, building scaffolding for the students with different learning styles.

During some off time, I was able to observe an ESL/ EFL class; I was bitten by the bug. When I returned to the U.S. after what seemed like a couple days but in actuality was five weeks, I switched my focus to Teaching English as a Foreign language. It just so happens that SDSU has the American Language Institute (ALI) and I started to get my things in order so I could start the program.

Among those things was the realization that the trailhead in front of me was the culmination of my language education and my desire to elevate the everlasting itch for all things foreign, to paraphrase Melville. Most of all, however, this job utilizes my empathetic personality and strong drive to help people.

This is where I played my hand and committed to studying at the ALI; easily one of the best choices of my young life. The curriculum included everything that will start me on my path to become a global educator and to expatriate-hood. One of the best parts, in my opinion, was the mentorship program. I have always aligned myself with those from whom I can learn. The mentorship program was just what I needed to build that personal bridge in-between what I was learning and the production stage. I first started having an academic mentor in high school; haven’t looked back. This type of relationship really works for me and my style of learning.

With the wide program of classes offered by the ALI, I now step forward to my job at a local school in the land of 1000 smiles [Thailand] with a strong confidence and preparedness. I was able to utilize the network I cultivated here in America to build a relationship with the powers that be at that school, in addition to some expatriates in other countries.

John Dewey said, “To find out what one is fitted to do, and to secure an opportunity to do it, is the key to happiness.” ALI has given me those opportunities and, helped me to hone my focus to embrace my itchy feet.

As I look forward into the very near future of my adoption of an expatriate lifestyle, I see many tasks and hoops to jump through. But as the time draws close and my ducks get in their rows,

I am afforded a view of my new home: the Far East. This lifestyle has always been one that I dreamt of adopting and, I credit the ALI with helping me to find the tune which makes my heart sing.

Follow Zachary York’s expat adventures at zacyork.wordpress.com